Archive for September, 2009
Monday, September 14th, 2009
The 10 race NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship is here, opening this Sunday, the 20th at New Hampshire.
Let’s take a detailed look at the 12 drivers in the running…
Tony Stewart: 2009 wins: 4. Smoke took a major risk leaving a comfortable and successful situation at Joe Gibbs Racing to try ownership by buying half of Carl Haas’ back-of-the-pack team. Stewart-Haas Racing has been worth the gamble, and the 2-time champion led the points since May. He leads the series with 13 top-5 finishes and might be on track to win his most impressive title yet.
Jeff Gordon: 2009 wins: 1 After a stunning winless season last year, the 4-time series champion has bounced back. His lone win was at Texas, a track that NASCAR revisits in the third-to-last Chase race, but he is second in top-5 and top-10 finishes with 12 and 18. It seems he has been a contender forever but, at 38, he can still win the Chase. He won’t be surprised if he does bag his 5th crown.
Jimmie Johnson: 2009 wins: 3. JJ and crew chief Chad Knaus are the deadliest duo when it comes to winning in the playoffs. The 3-time defending champion has everyone looking over their shoulders for the # 48. Two of his 3 wins — at Martinsville and Dover — were at tracks that the series visits again during the Chase. One small concern: Coming into Richmond, Johnson had just 1 top-10 finish in 5 races. The # 48 team has been experimenting, preparing for the chase. Into Richmond, Jimmie led a series-high 1,252 laps this season. Until he’s out of it, Johnson is a favourite to win a 4th straight title, to break the record he currently shares with Cale Yarborough.
Denny Hamlin: 2009 wins: 2: This is his 4th full season in Sprint Cup and Hamlin has made the Chase every time. Though Kyle Busch has won more, Hamlin has by far been the most consistent driver this season for Joe Gibbs Racing, and for Toyota. He has 10 top-10 finishes in his past 12 races and got a big boost with his win at Richmond, his hometown track. Might be the # 1 dark horse.
Carl Edwards: 2009 wins: None! A shock to have to say that! This has been a down year for Roush and Edwards and Greg Biffle, his Roush Fenway teammate. Edwards won 9 times in 2008 and was runner up in points, that’s twice he’s been in line for a championship and he’s flamed out. His broken foot thanks to an accident while playing Frisbee doesn’t help. The former Raceline Radio guest will fall short once again.
Kasey Kahne: 2009 wins: 2: Having Kahne make the Chase is a big deal for Richard Petty Motorsports, the team formed with the merger of Gillett Evernham and Petty Enterprises. KK was out of the Chase through much of the spring but came on strong at the end. He knows there’s stability for next year with the Yates/Ford merger, so his mood should spell determined. Time for Kasey to prove he belongs with the big boys.
Kurt Busch: 2009 wins: 1: The champion in 2004, the first year of the Chase, is the only chase entry for Roger Penske. Busch led the points for a week and was in the top 3 for a good chunk of the season until sliding in recent weeks. Consider: of the 8 chase tracks, Busch has 6 top-8 finishes including 4 top 5’s. He should win a race in the chase.
Juan Montoya: 2009 wins: None: This season has been a big break through for the former Formula One and IndyCar winner, with a reconfigured team after Chip Ganassi merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. JPM scored a career high 12 top-10 finishes, including 8 in his past 13 races. NASCAR loves the fact a driver from Columbia is flourishing in Cup. Ganassi had the brains to leave him be with enough time to get used to the cars and the marathon schedule. No wins, but he will have some impact.
Ryan Newman: 2009 wins: None: After missing the playoffs the last 3 seasons, Ryan hooked up with the new Stewart-Haas team, Newman could have been excused if he needed a year to find his groove. Instead, he shook off a sluggish start to claw into the top 10 after 10 races and stayed there. And his only 2 top-3 finishes this year (second at Charlotte, third at Talladega) came at Chase tracks.
Mark Martin: 2009 wins: 4: The re-birth of MM is the 2009 NASCAR story of the year. Brought back from the brink of retirement by Rick Hendrick, Cup’s elder statesman, age 50, has a solid chance of winning his long-awaited Cup championship after being a 3-time runner up.. He got into the top 12 with his victory in May at Darlington and, except for 2 weeks, has been there ever since. The easy sentimental favourate. If Mark wins the championship it will save a NASCAR season damaged by poor attendance and the economy. They need a feel-good story. Mark is it.
Greg Biffle: 2009 wins: None: In the middle of the Roush Fenway downer season. The 2005 series bridesmaid was 3rd third last year but doesn’t carry very many positives into the chase this year.. Roush Fenway Racing has suffered through a subpar season , and of the 8 Chase tracks the series has been to before, Biffle has just one finish better than 9th. Biffle can make chicken salad out of chicken “SH”, but hot this year. Ask team mate Matt Kenseth, out of the playoff for the first time since NASCAR devised the chase.
Brian Vickers: 2009 wins: 1: Brian’s 6 poles this season tied him for the series high. The Red Bull team, which struggled just to make races in its 2007 debut, likes this success, but it’s not enough to beat the Chevys and Fords. Still, this is big stuff for Vickers, who never got a sniff at the chase in his 3 years at Hendrick.
2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion? Jimmie Johnson is the the “class of the class!” He wins a 4th straight title to break the record he currently shares with Cale Yarborough. Sentimental favourite is easily Mark Martin.
Until next time..
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
What is the old saying?
Ignorance breeds contempt?
Raceline Radio attended last night’s public meeting in Fort Erie to hear opinions, for and against the proposed NASCAR/IRL calibre speedway in the Niagara Falls/Fort Erie/Buffalo corridor along the Queen Elizabeth Highway, between Bowan and Gilmore roads.
McMaster University has also attached its name to the project with plans for a research and development centre at the site. Jeff Gordon plans to establish a racing school at the speedway. Jeff sent along a letter of support.
There are also plans for a water park, retail outlets, restaurants, camp ground and many other features.
Initial seating will be 65 thousand, expandable to 100 thousand to watch racing on a one mile oval and a 2.5 mile road course.
The working name for the track is “Canadian Motor Speedway”, which is not a bad permanent name for the place at all.
But there is quite a lot of process to go through before we tell the sign maker what the joint’s called.
As it stand, Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin told me there is more support for the Speedway than there is opposition.
While the economic boost to a depressed area with very high unemployment is obvious to race fans and most members of Fort Erie City Council including Mayor Doug, non-fans and residents dead set against construction of a big league speed plant in their back yard have legitimate concerns, and many voiced them emphatically.
“The people that come to these events don’t come for a long time … they come here for a good time,” said one concerned Ridgeway resident. Ridgeway is a community very close to Fort Erie.
The land is currently designated agricultural, hazard and extractive industrial which would require a by-law amendment from both the town and Niagara Region before development could occur there.
Council made no decision whether to support the project right now, but rather used the public meeting to gauge the appetite and opinion among residents for such a proposal.
Local politicians supported a staff report for informational purposes, and will debate the matter later this year.
Other residents in opposition said if the speedway is built, they expect the quiet part of town they live in will become a hotbed of activity and unwanted noise.
A farmer who raises thoroughbred race horses for the nearby Fort Erie “alternative horse power” facility said his property is already visited by uninvited guests who are interested in getting a closer look at his horses.
Others with thumbs down are concerned about the environmental impact the speedway would have. If the project is approved, Miller Creek would have to be re-aligned to address storm water and sewage servicing issues, not to mention disrupting and destroying the fish habitat.
On the pro-track side, fans declared the speedway would hasten nothing but positive growth and income, something Fort Erie cannot afford to turn down.
Niagara dirt track legend Ted Renshaw, a 2007 Fort Erie Sports Wall of Fame inductee, said Fort Erie would be a place people will travel to from all over when events are held at the speedway.
Arlene White, Executive Director of the Bi-national Tourism Alliance, said a motor speedway in Fort Erie would be a major tourist draw for the entire region. “This project would be the envy of communities across North America,” she said.
Jim Puhl, former owner of Humberstone Speedway in Port Colborne said most of the project’s opposition will likely come from those concerned about noise in surrounding neighbourhoods. He said it would be something people will have to become tolerant of. “It’s not like it continues all day … it’s only for a few hours,” he said.
Residents living around Merrittville Speedway outside St.Catharines, a track that has been running since the early 50′s, know all about living in harmony with a speedway. Cars now run mufflers, race nights start and end early.
A handful of passes for the neighbours also helps calm things down should the night run late, which is rare.
These residents have learned a speedway can be a good neighbour.
After the Fort Erie meeting, Emirates Consulting Executive Director Azhar Mohammad said people’s concerns are legitimate. At the same time, they need to be assured “the best of the best” has been assembled for the planning and construction of the facility, which if everything goes according to plan, is expected to be complete by 2011.
“All our reports have been highly sophisticated and detailed to mitigate those concerns,” Azhar said.
He acknowledged that traffic, air quality and noise are three primary issues when it comes to concerned residents. However, those have been addressed in the planning and will continue to be until the plan is approved, said continued.
“We have worked over the last two years with 85 different Ontario-based engineers that have done nothing but study the modalities of these kinds of speedways.” , he concluded.
It was clear to me that most residents opposed to the speedway are feeding their emotions with exaggerated and distorted facts about race fan behaviour and how major league race weekends go down.
Some would have us believe most race fans are drunken, marauding hordes of hun, bent on trespassing and destroying private property, breaking into and burning down homes, while leaving behind vast piles of garage and destruction.
I would imagine there are a few racing fans who might fall under that description, but not the fans I know. Most are very respectful of private property.
Noise, of course is the biggest concern, and yes, there will be a buzz or low roar from the track that will travel considerable distance during the few hours the racing is going on, but certainly nothing to cause permanent hearing damage as one lady try to tell Fort Erie Council to the snickers of race fans in the gallery.
Traffic jams and pollution from idling cars might be a major hassle, but unlike places like Michigan and Richmond that are well back from a major highway, and bottle-neck columns of cars and motor homes on smaller, narrower roads to get in and out of the tracks, The Fort Erie track is directly adjacent to the QEW. With upgrades to the Bowan and Gilmore road interchanges, cars and fans will be able to get in and out of this place a lot quicker than most.
As council weights the pro’s and con’s of building Canadian Motor Speedway, and personal and environmental concerns are compared to the obvious economic benefits to The City of Fort Erie and the Niagara Region, the sport in this country badly needs a track of this size and capacity.
I trust Mayor Doug and Fort Erie City Council will make the right decision.
Until next time…
Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
Just finished another nice phoner with now 6 time, and 4-time consecutive Parts Canada Superbike motorcycle racing champion Jordan Szoke, easily the hottest racer ( rider! ) in Canada right now. Nobody’s putting together streaks like this dude!
The chat with the Brantford 2-wheel whiz will air on next week’s show….
Off to the town of Fort Erie over the supper hour for another town hall meeting to bring rate payers and the media up to date on we are with the new “Canadian Speedway”, the NASCAR/IRL calibre oval-road course along the QEW in the Niagara Falls-Fort Erie-Buffalo corridor at Gilmore road.
There is a new website with countdown now up and running you can chart the progress on:
Photo’s of the plans, Jeff Gordon’s involvement, etc.
We’ll have some sound from the meeting on The FAN tomorrow and of course on Raceline Radio next week.
If there’s some substance there, I might dedicate an entire guest segment to it…
Formula One “crap”, the NASCAR Chase almost ready to begin… it’s a busy time!
Good to have you out there listening…
Have a great “short” week y’all!